Investments in Adolescent Girl's Physical and Financial Assets: Issues and Review of Evidence

Published: January 2013

This issues paper focuses on strengthening poor adolescent girls' ability to invest in and accumulate physical (including land) and financial assets. The paper begins by presenting a conceptual framework showing the relationship between the gendered distribution of assets, empowerment, and well-being. It then discusses why assets are important for adolescent girls, and then moves on to elucidating the ways through which girls acquire assets across the life course. It continues by reviewing the existing evidence on programs and interventions that have attempted to increase girls' physical and financial assets, emphasizing "bundled" interventions or integrated programs that combine efforts to build stocks of physical and financial assets with education, training, or programming to attain other development objectives, such as delayed marriage or prevention of risky sexual behavior. We end by summarizing "lessons learned," identifying new opportunities, and suggesting steps for future research and implementation. This paper is accompanied by a mapping document which contains the results in more detail.

Key Findings

  • The existing literature on investments in adolescent girls' assets has also been mostly project or intervention focused.
  • Interventions that challenge social norms and deep-seated beliefs about girls' owning and controlling assets do not occur in a vacuum. Projects and programs need to explicitly consider the need to change the structures within which these programs operate.
  • Policy reform that removes gender discrimination can provide the supportive environment underlying this entire process.
  • In contrast to programs that aim to increase girls' human capital, programs that aim to increase girls' ability to invest in and control physical and financial assets are fairly new.
  • For program designers and policymakers to better design and implement programs to increase girls' ownership and control of assets, documentation of local adaptations, as well as what worked and what didn't work, will be essential.
  • Despite the prevalence of bundled interventions to build adolescent girls' assets, many evaluation studies do not use appropriate counterfactuals.
  • One of the major weaknesses of the studies reviewed is the short time frame between implementation and evaluation.
  • One difficulty in identifying promising programs for adolescent girls lies in the fact that not all programs are age-targeted, and evaluations of these programs rarely report their results for different age groups.
  • Studies of the impact of programs on adolescent girls must not lose sight of an important comparison group: adolescent boys.
  • Most programs reviewed report absolute impacts of the program, but not their cost effectiveness.

Populations Adolescent Girls, Poor

Complementary Outcomes Education And Literacy, HIV/AIDS, Sexual And Reproductive Health

Publishers Girl Hub

Funded by Nike Foundation, United Kingdom Department for International Development